UOW queries quality of Australia's childcare system

Tertiary qualifications and teacher-child ratios should be the drivers behind a national overhaul of the childcare industry.

That is the view of a University of Wollongong submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the nation's childcare system.

More than 1300 submissions had been received by the commission by yesterday's deadline, with hundreds more anonymous comments.

In a draft report released earlier this year, a raft of changes to the industry were proposed, including a means test for the childcare rebate and increased funding for children with additional needs.

The university's submission, prepared by Dr Cathrine Neilson-Hewett and Associate Professor Ian Brown, expressed concern that a focus on child outcomes had lost out to a focus on workforce productivity and perceived parenting needs.

They said the Commission's view that children under three simply required care rather than education reflected a lack of understanding about what constituted high-quality early childhood education.

"In terms of productivity, the best social, educational and economic return on investment is gained by investing in the earliest years of a child's educational journey," the UOW submission said.

"Not having highly qualified university trained teachers means children will miss out on this opportunity for growth and development, cheating children of their potential.

"When it comes to quality early educational experiences, tertiary teacher education qualifications and teacher-child ratios matter and therefore should drive any reform measures and inform government policy."

On Friday the Abbott government pledged $406 million to extend an early childhood learning agreement, giving certainty about preschool hours in 2015.

Federal Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said the agreement would not be extended further until the Productivity Commission's inquiry into childcare was completed late in October.

Parents to keep preschool hours for 2015

Parents will keep their access to subsidised preschool hours in 2015 but the government has not committed to funding beyond next year.

The government pledged $406million to extend an early childhood learning agreement, meaning parents have certainty about preschool hours in 2015.

Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said the money extended the national partnership Labor signed, which was due to expire.

‘‘I want to reassure parents wherever they are that their children will have access to up to 15 hours of preschool [a week], just as they have this year,’’ Ms Ley said on Friday.

But Ms Ley said the government would not extend the agreement further until the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into childcare was completed.   AAP